Casey Kirwan collects first career eNPAiS victory at Bristol, 2019 Playoff field set
Casey Kirwan is the newest winner at the top level of eNASCAR iRacing competition.
After 250 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kirwan was victorious, passing back Zack Novak for the final time with five laps to go.
The two Ford Performance drivers had a spirited battle in the final 70 laps of the event, dodging lapped traffic, caution-less incidents, and each other in the closing laps.
Novak took the lead away with 30 laps to go after Kirwan had to avoid a pile up that didn’t bring out a yellow flag.
“I was just… I was freaking out whenever they started wrecking,” Kirwan said post race to RaceSpot TV. “I got on the apron, and once I got back calm, I realized there wasn’t a yellow quick enough.”
Kirwan kept the gap close, and after regaining his composure, began to chip away at Novak.
Using a lapped car as a pick, Kirwan slid by Novak with five laps remaining, and held on for his first career eNPAiS victory.
“I don’t know how we did it, but after coming close so many times, having good runs that just haven’t gone our way, to finally win, everyone, all the people that supported me… it feels good to finally win.”
For the first time since 2011, the eNASCAR Peak Antifreeze iRacing Series visited the virtual half-mile bullring, dubbed “The Last Great Colosseum”, for Round 14 of the 2019 season.
The final race of the regular season, eight drivers would be moving on to the four-race postseason, set to begin in a week at Darlington Raceway.
Kirwan had an outside chance at racing for a championship in 2019. Entering Bristol Motor Speedway 37 points outside the cutoff, a lot of things would need to go right for the second-year eNPAiS driver from North Carolina.
Blake Reynolds and Garrett Lowe entered the event already locked into the post-season, but the two would be battling for a chance at becoming the regular season champion, after Ryan Luza did not make the event.
Bobby Zalenski, Keegan Leahy, and Michael Conti were all fairly safe, as long as their races didn’t get too sideways.
The bubble battle truly consisted of three drivers – Jimmy Mullis, Zack Novak, and Nick Ottinger – racing for the final two spots in the playoff field.
Kirwan and Christian Challiner both had outside chances of making the playoff field, but would need a lot of bad luck from multiple competitors in front of them.
Corey Vincent started the event from the pole position, but that was about the only good part of his race. He lost the lead immediately to Keegan Leahy, who went on to lead the first 43 laps of the race.
Logan Clampitt took over for a brief stint at lap 44, but as the leaders worked through traffic, it became clear that the early on dominant car was the No. 4 of Nathan Lyon.
Lyon took over the point at lap 53, and led 118 laps during the mid portion of the race.
On the final caution of the event, Lyon opted to stay on the track, while most of the rest of the field came in for fresh tires.
The race would stay green to the end, and the old tires proved to be costly for Lyon.
Kirwan took the lead at lap 173, and at lap 181, Novak passed Lyon for second place.
The battle began to heat up between the two with 30 laps to go, when lapped cars began to tangle in front of the two leaders.
Kirwan made a safe decision to pull it to the apron to avoid the mess, but as there was no caution flag from the incident, Novak took advantage and put his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford into the lead.
Novak’s car was loose though, and Kirwan was still right there.
Kirwan continued to try to get around Novak as the two worked through traffic.
Eventually, after the two caught Dylan Duval, who was trying to stay on the lead lap, Kirwan was able to pin Novak up behind the slower car, and complete the pass.
Novak’s second place finish vaulted him into one of the two final spots in the 2019 playoffs. Jimmy Mullis finished 11th, and had enough points to hold off Nick Ottinger, who finished seventh.
The wait is over for @CaseyKirwan14! 🏁
Kirwan takes the fight to @znovak15 in the closing laps to earn his first-career PEAK @iRacing Series win at Bristol. @clintbowyer pic.twitter.com/NanxW9I0WH
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 21, 2019
Blake Reynolds finished fourth at Bristol, and was crowned the 2019 regular season champion, by ten points over Ryan Luza.
Bobby Zalenski, Garrett Lowe, Keegan Leahy, Michael Conti, Zack Novak, and Jimmy Mullis round out the Top 8, and will compete over the next three races to determine the four who will fight for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in October.
Darlington Raceway is up next, and the defending winner is Michael Conti.
The remaining two races of the round will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
- 14 – Casey Kirwan – Clint Bowyer Racing
- 6 – Zack Novak – Roush Fenway Racing
- 17 – Michael Guest – Roush Fenway Racing
- 30 – Blake Reynolds – Team Dillon eSports
- 74 – Taylor Hurst – Independent
- 21 – Ray Alfalla – Wood Brothers Racing
- 47 – Nick Ottinger – JTG Daugherty Racing
- 77 – Ashton Crowder – Burton Kligerman eSports
- 5 – Matt Bussa – Williams eSports
- 8 – Michael Conti – JR Motorsports
- 46 – Jimmy Mullis – Richmond Raceway eSports
- 37 – Christian Challiner – JTG Daugherty Racing
- 2 – Caine Cook – Independent
- 18 – Bobby Zalenski – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 66 – Jarl Teien – G2 eSports
- 62 – Keegan Leahy – G2 eSports
- 90 – Malik Ray – Richmond Raceway eSports
- 7 – Ryan Lowe – Independent
- 88 – Brad Davies – JR Motorsports
- 4 – Nathan Lyon – Letarte eSports
- 36 – Chris Shearburn – Letarte eSports
- 55 – Brian Schoenburg – Williams eSports
- 99 – Logan Clampitt – Burton Kligerman eSports
- 75 – Philip Diaz – Mode Motorsports
- 42 – Dylan Duval – Independent
- 51 – Eric J. Smith – Jim Beaver eSports
- 19 – Casey Tucker – Independent
- 79 – Nickolas Shelton – Clint Bowyer Racing
- 83 – Adam Benefiel – Independent
- 63 – Timmy Hill – FlipSid3 Tactics
- 20 – Jake Nichols – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 28 – Garrett Lowe – Renegades
- 33 – Benjamin W. Nelson – Team Dillon eSports
- 15 – Michael Guariglia – Jim Beaver eSports
- 31 – Logan Kress – Independent
- 27 – Corey Vincent – Renegades
- 24 – Cody Byus – Mode Motorsports
- 80 – Brandon Hayse Kettelle – Independent
Did Not Race:
16 – Chris Overland – Wood Brothers Racing
53 – Ryan Michael Luza – FlipSid3 Tactics
Justin Melillo View All
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com
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